All new further education teachers will be required to build sustainability into their teaching next year as part of the government’s climate change strategy.
The Department for Education’s final policy document on the strategy was published today, following a draft that was released in November and launched at the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
The new “requirement” for FE teachers will come into effect in 2023. Existing college staff will however not be required to include sustainability into their teaching.
While the sector has responded positively to the government’s commitment tackling climate change – the key policy proposed for FE doesn’t go as far as what college leaders had hoped.
The Association of Colleges sent a letter signed by 150 principals to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi in October calling for all courses for 16- to 18-year-olds to change to include compulsory modules on climate change. The AoC was unable to comment on the DfE’s new strategy at the time of going to press.
Launching the Department for Education’s climate change strategy, Zahawi said: “We are delivering a better, safer, greener world for future generations and education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change.”
The policy paper says that by 2023 the government will develop an occupational standard for further education teaching which explicitly requires all new teachers to integrate sustainability into their teaching.
Teachers will be expected to do this through modelling sustainable practices and promoting sustainable development principles in relation to their subject specialism.
While it was not clear from the strategy whether new FE teachers will be required to teach sustainability to all students, including adults and 16- to 18-year-olds, the DfE told FE Week: “The requirement applies to all new teachers, regardless of courses/level.”
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association welcomed the plans, saying that sixth form colleges have a “long-standing commitment” to the sustainability agenda.
“Teachers in sixth form colleges are already mindful of the importance of tackling issues of sustainability in the classroom and the most likely impact of this latest requirement is that it will help to embed, and perhaps even expand, existing good practice,” he said.
Other key policy updates around sustainability were announced in the paper.
Policy makers said that by 2023 all bids for capital funding for further education and higher education will need to consider environmental impact, carbon reduction and adaptation measures, and align with the government’s targets and objectives.
Ministers also pledged to introduce a new natural history GCSE by 2025. The new qualification will give young people a “further opportunity to engage with and develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of the natural world”.
The government also said that every education setting will have nominated a “sustainability lead” by 2025. These leads will receive carbon literacy training and will be responsible for putting in place climate action plans.
The DfE said that “at least four schools and one college will have been built via the Gen Zero Platform that the department demonstrated at COP26” – this will also happen by 2025.
The DfE told FE Week that the GenZero platform is a kit of parts for delivering the “widest range of educational buildings to the highest standards in the most economic method”.
“As part of the development we are piloting five GenZero schools and colleges selected from the department’s building programmes,” the DfE told FE Week.
“Each will be selected on their suitability for incorporating the GenZero principles and will then undergo a rigorous monitoring and evaluation process to collect evidence on performance to technical and sustainability standards.”
So far Forge Hill, a new free school in West Sussex and Ashington College, Northumberland, have been selected to take part and are undergoing feasibility studies.
The government has previously spoken about how colleges will be “key” to hitting their target of supporting 440,000 net zero jobs by 2030.
The paper outlines how its existing programme of skills reforms, including trials of levels 4 to 6 short courses, the strategic development fund for colleges and local skills improvement plans each have a role to play in the sector’s contribution towards green skills.